Feature: Vasaloppet China promoting ice-and-snow brand of NE China's Changchun

Updated: January 5, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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CHANGCHUN, China, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Even though the city of Mora on the Scandinavian Peninsula is 6,800 kilometers away from Changchun in northeast China's Jilin Province, the annual Vasaloppet International Skiing Festival ties the two with ice and snow.

Twenty-two years since its first edition, Vasaloppet China is not merely defined as a niche winter sports event. Instead, it has been transformed into a signature event integrating sports, cultural tourism, and economic and trade exchange.

On January 4, nearly a thousand professional athletes and ski enthusiasts from China, Sweden, Finland, the United States, Japan and other countries and regions gathered at the Jingyuetan National Forest Park in Changchun to experience the challenge of cross-country skiing, kicking off the city's first ice and snow carnival this year.

At the Vasaloppet Economic and Trade Fair on January 3, Jingyue High-tech Industrial Development Zone signed 38 projects with a planned investment of 18.2 billion yuan (2.56 billion U.S. dollars) and expected revenue of 6.6 billion yuan (930 million dollars) in the first year, marking a good start to Changchun's investment promotion in 2024.

"I feel very excited to compete with so many high-level skiers. I hope I can finish the race smoothly," said Xiu Feng, a skier who was taking part in Vasaloppet China for the first time.

The Vasaloppet International Skiing Festival, which originated in Sweden in 1922, is one of the world's largest cross-country skiing events. In 2003, the first Vasaloppet China took place in Changchun, becoming the event's fourth global venue after Mora in Sweden, Hokkaido in Japan and Minnesota in the United States.

"Although cross-country skiing is a traditional event in the Winter Olympics, it started late in China. The introduction of Vasaloppet has contributed to the popularization of China's cross-country skiing," said Li Geliang, a former Asian cross-country skiing champion.

Since Vasaloppet came to Changchun, many cross-country skiing competitions have been held here, forming a larger cross-country skiing population base, Li added.

In 2014, Vasaloppet China officially joined Worldloppet, the world's largest and highest-level long-distance cross-country skiing organization. Over the past 10 years, Jingyuetan in Changchun has attracted expert skiers from home and abroad to compete.

"The registration scale for this competition is the largest compared with the past three years," said Niclas, managing director of Changchun Nordic Ways Vasa.

All competition referees had experience of officiating cross-country skiing and biathlon events at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Ding Zhiguo, general manager of Changchun Jingyuetan Tourism Development Group, said that Jingyuetan has cooperated with universities in Changchun to carry out cross-country skiing public welfare training, and that since 2005, more than half a million students have received training.

Many college students in Changchun have completed basic skiing training, with outstanding students having had opportunities to compete abroad.

In 2019, many university students from Changchun participated in cross-country skiing at the Winter World University Games in Russia.

"Since the start of this snow season, we have been conducting public welfare courses in Jingyuetan for about a month," said Wang Jun, a physical education teacher at Changchun University of Technology.

Centered on Vasaloppet China, Changchun Jingyue High-tech Industrial Development Zone has launched multiple activities to further promote the winter sports industry.

"We will also better meet people's needs for ice and snow consumption," said Chen Aimin, a manager at Changchun Jingyue High-tech Industrial Development Zone, adding that Jingyuetan will host multiple activities and launch ice and snow internet-famous products.

The selection of the Vasaloppet China "Snow Angel" has also become an important cultural event.

"Vasaloppet China is not only a sports event, but also a platform for cultural exchange," said Wang Jin, who was named this year's Snow Angel. "I hope more people will visit Changchun in the future to appreciate the charm of Vasaloppet China and the beauty of Changchun's ice and snow."

Editor: Yang Linlin